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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “nobody” should be prosecuted over coronavirus deaths, including nursing homes, saying older people were "always going to die from this virus."
Cuomo has come under fire for his policy enacted March 25 forcing nursing homes to take in COVID-19 positive patients, which has only recently been reversed.
One reporter at an Albany press conference on Sunday asked the governor what he had to say to families who had lost loved ones in nursing homes to coronavirus. “They’re looking for accountability and they feel that they were failed, what’s the comment to that?"
Cuomo noted that 139 people had died in New York state from the virus on Saturday. “How do we get justice for those families? Who can we prosecute for those deaths? Nobody. Mother Nature, God, where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus, that is the truth.”
“Older people, vulnerable people, are going to die from this virus,” Cuomo added. “That is going to happen despite whatever you do, with all our progress as a society, we can't keep everyone alive. Older people are more vulnerable. That is a fact that is not going to change.”
More than 4,800 people died from COVID-19 in nursing homes in New York from March 1 to May 1, according to a count by the governor’s office. Roughly 25 percent of all deaths in the state occurred in nursing homes.
The reporter pressed Cuomo about his nursing home policy again: “Some think that the mandates that are currently in place, if they were in place from the get-go, they feel that their loved ones might still be here.”
“People rationalize death in different ways. I don't think there is any logical rationale to say they would be alive today,” the governor said. He added that no one in the state who needed one had gone without a hospital bed or a ventilator. “I increased the hospital capacity to an extent that we didn’t even need,” he said.
On May 10, Cuomo revealed a requirement for hospital patients to test negative for coronavirus before being discharged to nursing homes, effectively reversing his previous policy. He also announced a policy requiring all New York nursing homes and adult care facilities to test staff members for COVID-19 twice a week and report positive cases to the state.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is demanding a federal probe into Cuomo's policy.
"Today I joined my [New York GOP] colleagues in the House to call for a federal investigation of Cuomo's failed nursing home policies," Stefanik tweeted Friday. "NOW they admit they unethically changed the way they report nursing home deaths. An INEXCUSABLE tragedy for NY -- NEED ANSWERS."
New York City Republican Councilman Joe Borelli told "Fox & Friends" on Monday there are now bipartisan calls for an investigation into the rule.
“The truth of the matter is on March 25, the Cuomo administration made a decision in the form of a written policy that prevented nursing homes from rejecting patients that were testing positive for COVID-19 from coming back into the nursing home,” Borelli told “Fox & Friends First.”
Borelli added that though "leeway" should be given to elected officials who make difficult decisions in difficult circumstances, Cuomo made a "backward" decision, allowing infected people to be allowed near vulnerable and "close-knit" people.
“You don’t have to be an expert in epidemiology to realize that this was going to be a problem,” Borelli said.